Everything is ready for your album release. You've avoided my mistakes by budgeting, funding, self-care, arranging the songs, recording/mixing/mastering, marketing, and promoting your album. Now, it ‘s time to protect your investment.
Before you start to stream, sell, or license your music, you want to ensure that you've done what you can to get the returns from it. There are so many — sometimes confusing — ways to protect your music and the potential revenue streams from it. I'll go over some of the main ones here, but this is just an overview. Please share the other ways you've found in the comments on this page. And thanks for that!
Since you chose your distributor well, you will be retaining ownership of your album and the royalties from your music. (Right?) Whenever you enter into agreements for streaming or licensing, be sure that your ownership is protected.
Though international copyright law says that you only have to add the © symbol to protect your song or other music, it's a good idea to register if you're in the USA. You can perform the registration online for a reduced fee.
To maximize your royalties, it's just as important to submit your new album and all the material on it to your PRO (Performance Rights Organization) and SoundExchange. Many USA musicians are with the PROs BMI or ASCAP. In basic terms, PROs help musicians get royalties from live performances. On the other hand, SoundExchange aims to channel royalties from digital “performances” back to the artist and/or publisher. All of these organizations have also advocated for musicians with the government in the USA.
There are dozens of other ways to make it clear that the songs or pieces of music on this album are yours. If they are songs, you may also want to copyright the lyrics. (I also am a poet, so it's not unusual for me to protect the lyrics as a standalone piece of creative output.)
Even if you don't register your lyrics with the copyright office, I recommend that you add them to some of the larger lyric search engines. The two I chose are Metrolyrics and LyricFind. The latter is a licensing service behind some of the streaming radio lyric databases. You can request to become a publisher and, if accepted, you can submit your lyrics. You'll need to already have the songs registered with your PRO and distributor in order to provide all the codes to completely fill out the LyricFind forms.
Seriously, if you read this far, I thank you. That's it for this series. With this information in hand, you can avoid my mistakes in releasing an album.